Many people get started as a Christian speaker because they have a story to tell. Often they share their story with a small group of friends or at the church they attend. Someone from that group asks them to speak at their church or for their group of friends … and voila! a Christian speaker is born. Many people think it’s really that simple … but is it … REALLY?
SCREECH!!! APPLY THE BRAKES! Not so fast, Sparky!
All that has happened is this person has shared their story with a few groups of people. There’s been no thought or steps taken to ensure this will be anything more than that … just sharing their story. And yet often times when this happens, the story-teller hangs out their shingle and proclaims, “I am a professional Christian speaker!”
Consider this … does flying a radio-controlled airplane make you a pilot? Certainly not. At best, it makes you interested in a specific field, an enthusiast, a hobbyist, or an amateur. It takes training by professional pilots and then following their instruction through a training period before getting a license to fly an airplane alone. If they want to be a commercial pilot, it takes more training and certification at a higher level.
So why when it comes to speaking do many people think they can go from zero (sharing their story) to the professional level in one easy step? There is confusion and misinformation among people considering themselves to be professional speakers that if they’ve been invited to share their story or maybe even been paid for just one event, that they are now a professional speaker and somehow (they don’t know how it works) the event planners will start beating a path to their door.
I’m not trying to be harsh or burst anyone’s dreams, yet I’ve seen this pattern repeatedly. The end result is the person doesn’t reach the expectations he or she had. Eventually they end up frustrated and/or giving up.
Sadly, the world has lost the opportunity to hear this person’s story about what God has done in their life. A story that might change someone else’s life. To complicate the process, if they do take some steps and attend a speaker or writer conference, often the training they do get sets unrealistic expectations without giving them solid information and tools to build a strong foundation. FYI … not everyone who attends a speaker (or writer) conference will become or wants to become a professional … and that’s okay.
If you have a story to tell, topics to teach on, or have a passion for a certain area and want to share that with as many people as possible, let us first:
- make it a given that you have been praying about this, sought wise counsel, and believe this is the path God is directing you to take.
- settle it now that you are convinced you are to do this and willing to work long and hard to see it manifest.
- back up and look at what you should be doing during your first year of speaking. (If you have been speaking longer than one year and aren’t getting the results you expected … keep reading. You might want to go back and shore up the foundation you already have.)
8 Steps to Start Your Speaker Journey to Becoming a Professional Christian Speaker
- Get speaker-skills training by the best in the industry you can afford, preferably someone with a proven track record of developing successful professional speakers. Don’t be afraid to learn from speaker trainers who are not a “Christian” speaker. If you want to be a cut above, you might have to find someone who has similar values as you do, but has had his or her success as a professional speaker in other arenas beyond just the Christian arena (and you might find some of these people are Christians, too! BONUS!).
- Get a cell phone, a laptop, internet access for your researching your topic, and a quiet room in which you can work. Treat it like a real job (maybe one day it will be.
- Develop a speaking presentation based on your story or area of passion and purpose.
- Practice, practice, practice … and practice some more (in that quiet room you have). Record yourself and critique yourself. You’re not ready for the world to hear you quite yet. Knock off the rough edges of your presentation as much as you can.
- Create a basic website (domain name = your name.com) that includes your bio, the title and description of your presentation, and contact information. It can be 2-3 pages at the most for now. You will want to be able to send people to your website as you meet them in various places and tell them what you are doing.
- Create business cards with your name and contact info (include your website URL). Distribute these whenever you have the opportunity or when someone asks what you are doing.
- Contact everyone you know, churches, local library, women’s or men’s clubs (depending on your gender), civic groups or schools (if your topic is appropriate) … anyone who will allow you to do a 20-45 minutes presentation to their group during one of their meetings or luncheons. You will be speaking for no fee at these events; however, in exchange, you will gain experience before a live audience and the opportunity to hear their feedback. This will allow you to tighten up and hone your presentation to make it even better. It will also make you more sure of yourself and have better stage presence. Be sure to continually implement what you learned in step 1. Stay within a one-hour drive of where to live so that you do not over invest in travel expenses. (If you do have a group interested in having you speak that is more than an hour away, ask them to cover your travel expenses and, if needed, meals and lodging.)
- Go out and speak to the groups that invite you and RECORD THE AUDIO OF EACH PRESENTATION. Listen to each presentation. Have a trusted friend who can offer objective feedback listen to them. Hire a coach or mentor to listen them and provide feedback. Then incorporate this feedback into the next presentation you give. Repeat.
Do these steps for the first year. Dedicate your time to this as if it were a full-time job … because that is what you want to be at some point, a full-time, paid, professional speaker … right?
Do these steps and your plate will be full getting prepared, gaining experience, and honing your speaking skills. If you are focused on anything else during this time (i.e. writing a book, recording videos to sale, etc.), you are putting the cart before the horse. During this first year, it’s all about developing your speaking skills. PERIOD. Here’s a hint: Most speakers in the Christian speaking arena do not do this. They jump into the deep end first and then wonder the rest of their “career” why they aren’t getting invited beyond their local radius to speak.
Talent is a factor in what level market the speaker will be able to serve, but speaking skills are more important for overall success in the business. Positioning and marketing are both important, but you have to have the goods in this business to make it. You can’t market your way to the top. Once you get in front of a live audience, it’s just you and them. And if you haven’t been trained in how to hold their attention, you’re dead. No amount of slick marketing will save you. You cannot fake your way to success in this business.
Again, you can’t be a pretender in this business and succeed. Audiences aren’t stupid. You either have the skills or you don’t, and if you’re not trained when your opportunity presents itself, you’re going down in flames.
Most new speakers focus on the sexy parts of the business, but the smart ones focus on the most important aspect: their speaking skills.
[How to Become A Million Dollar Speaker by Elliott Saltzman]
If you focus … really focus … on developing your speaking skills during your first year … then you can take the next set of steps to being a professional speaker by setting speaking fees, developing your social media network, growing your website, working on that book proposal or write your book to self-publish, recording that video to sale, and starting to do A LOT of marketing and promotion.
Any questions? Please feel free to post comments and questions you may have about getting started during your first year as a speaker. CLICK HERE
SPEAKER TIPS is a regular column with tips and information from industry professionals for Christian communicators who are interested in developing and honing their speaking and platform skills.
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Karen Power is an authority on marketing/promotion, social media, and booking management for Christian communicators. With over 40 years of experience, Karen has been on both sides of the stage and event as a musician, speaker, writer, event planner, concert promoter, coach, book tour manager and speaker bureau owner and agent. She’s played in Christian bands and promoted Christian concerts and women’s conferences. She’s been the guest speaker for women’s events and writers conference. Since 2004, she has worked with event planners across the country as a booking agent for hundreds of speakers.
Some of her writing has been published in several books and she’s managed book tours for some of the top authors in the CBA market. Her business background includes 17 years in the credit union industry with a top corporate credit union and working for 7+ years for a Fortune 350 company on the national sales training team that was recognized as one of the top 100 training organizations in the world.
She is the founder and owner of emPOWERing Christian Communicators, Christian Speakers Services, and On Stage Speakers Management. All of this experience and expertise gives Karen a perspective that is unique in this industry and much-needed. She is able help emPOWER Christian communicators to raise their level of skills and knowledge to achieve their professional ministry goals.